Practitioners in the USA are turning to yoga to find a way to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Tim Feldmann talks about the effectiveness of yoga as a powerful tool for good health.
The Miami Life Center is one of the most well-known ashtanga yoga shalas in the US and for good reason. Its founders, Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kino McGregor and Level 2 Authorised Ashtanga Teacher Tim Feldmann are among the most senior and respected ashtanga teachers in the world.
When I first approached Tim Feldmann (the Director of Miami Life Center) for an interview, I was expecting at least a few celebrity airs from him. I’m happy to say I was wrong. Contrary to my preconceived notions, Tim was approachable, warm, humble, and always willing to support. His dedication and love for the ashtanga system is absolute, and he believes in the power of yoga to heal the world and improve the human condition. Read on for Tim’s advice on how to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic and use your ashtanga practice to heal yourself and by extension, everyone else.
Sophia: How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected your life and your ashtanga practice?
Tim Feldmann: They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! Well, I’m an old dog but I’m finding myself navigating new routines in many aspects of my current life. I’m learning to teach interactively online and actually quite like the challenge of finding new ways of teaching the ancient art of yoga. My asana practice flourishes as I find stronger focus, and at the moment, I’m practicing simpler asanas and the Ashtanga Primary Series as I find it most soothing.
Sophia: The States has the most cases of COVID-19 in the world. What’s it like living under lockdown knowing this?
Tim: Well, the implications of this disease only impact us (my wife and I) to the degree where we need to interact with the world. But, I know people in the US and other parts of the world who live in very densely-populated areas, or just in a small home with many people. To me, that seems like a much more difficult situation than my current living situation as Kino and I share a relatively spacious home. But, we are all in the same boat here and we’re trying to do our bit to make sure we don’t spread the virus.
Sophia: How does practising ashtanga yoga benefit people on a physical, mental and emotional level in the midst of this pandemic?
Tim: Anxiety has its way with many of us these days. The uncertainty, the restrictions, loved ones getting sick, people dying — all this can be very upsetting. I find that the many years of regular, daily yoga practice have helped me now more than ever before. The tools of yoga, especially yogic breathing, are well-rooted in my being, and asana practice gives me the opportunity to dive deep inside myself where I can find a place of solace, comfort and peace. That happy place available to everyone practices yoga, even if you’re starting today.
Sophia: How can a yoga teacher support his/her students at a time like this? How do you do it?
Tim: As a yoga teacher, I can offer my skills to any student who is interested. Yoga has a huge toolbox when it comes to dealing with the less attractive part of life. As a matter of fact, that is the sole intention of yoga — to help us find fulfillment, joy and freedom within ourselves and in our surroundings. Yoga is of the opinion that life is not easy and many unfortunate things can and will happen. The entire philosophy and methodology of yoga has been developed and tested for centuries for the sole purpose of helping us transcend suffering. A yoga aspirant who has taken the time to truly learn and embody this ancient Indian wisdom can pass it on to others. I believe that a yoga teacher is obligated to pass this wisdom and healing to the next generation. As teachers, it is our dharma. That’s the way yoga teachers can support their students. It’s what I try my best to do.
Sophia: Do you think the way yoga is taught and learned will change during and after this pandemic? How?
Tim: I have always found that the ideal way to teach yoga is directly from a knowledgeable teacher to a curious student. I never ventured into online teaching for that reason. But, to my surprise, I find the online medium a much better tool than I imagined. I have corrected my perception of online teaching and I now know that it is possible to teach with quality and intimacy even via the interactive virtual experience. Of course, teaching in person will always be my preferred way to teach but that is not an option right now. I have enjoyed being able to reach my students from all over the world. We meet online and work together. That’s a very lovely experience.
Sophia: What’s the most challenging part about being in lockdown?
Tim: I am fortunate to enjoy relatively good health and I am not in the critical group who fall especially ill due to COVID-19. For me, the challenging part is the economic uncertainty that comes with not being able to work and not being able to pay the yoga teachers who work at the Miami Life Center Shala. Other than that, I feel blessed and lucky that I live in a house I truly love. I must admit that I enjoy staying home a whole lot. I am using my yoga practices to keep anxiety under control but I feel compassion for the many people who are suffering. I know so many good people are finding themselves with no food or money, children who need care don’t have access to it, families who have lost the people they love…all of this is very disheartening and to helplessly watch people suffer is the worst part of this lockdown.
Sophia: Is there anything positive we can learn from this current crisis that’s affecting the entire world?
Tim: I find there is always a silver lining. No matter how bad something seems to us, there is always a tiny light within the greatest pain. In the context of the current situation that’s plaguing the world, I think of how yoga teaches us to cultivate what is wholesome and useful in our speech, thoughts and emotions as well as actions. If we have dedicated ourselves to such noble commitments, when we encounter challenges in our lives, we have the opportunity to see if our yogic endeavours have taken root in us. When hard times come, we have the opportunity to see if we learned something or if we didn’t. Now is exactly such a time. Use this time to reflect on what works for you in this world and what truly makes you happy. Then remove the ‘fluff’ that you can do without. I find that we have all been reminded that being healthy, breathing and fever-free is not to be taken for granted. Walking outside our house and buying food is a privilege that we have to cherish and we need to stop complaining about how our favourite peanut butter was sold out. These small corrections of our mind’s thought patterns are important and useful tools to ensure we cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude, respect and appreciation for the smaller things in life.
Sophia: What’s the first thing you’re going to do when this pandemic ends?
Tim: Ha! I am going to try to hold on to the simplicity of introverted living. My work requires that I jump on a plane every weekend. I would like to scale that part down a bit and find ways to teach more locally and perhaps continue online classes. I want to shift my orientation from this crazy, big world and instead choose targeted ventures that I can work on out of my home. I would like that very much.
Tim Feldmann is a Level 2 Authorised Ashtanga Teacher based in Miami, USA. For his teaching schedules, visit the Miami Life Center.